Winter reading for the bibliophile

4 Mins read

We asked GPS professors to recommend their favorite must-read books, from the rich world of fiction to timeless novels

By Rachel Hommel | GPS News

Reading has the innate ability to transport us to another place and time, to leave the hallways at the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS) and go on an adventure. Whether fascinated by the human mind, political treason or beautifully crafted fiction, their taste in literature spans the globe.

This winter season, stick one of these faculty recommended books in your carry-on or gift bag and let us know what you think!

Strangers Drowning

Professor John Ahlquist

Recommendation: “Strangers Drowning: Impossible Idealism, Drastic Choices, and the Urge to Help” by Larissa MacFarquhar

“Beautifully written investigation into why some people undertake extreme sacrifice in the service of ethical commitments and our ambivalent reactions to them,” said Ahlquist.

The Secrets of Our Success

Professor Roger Bohn

Recommendation: “The Secret of Our Success: How Culture Is Driving Human Evolution, Domesticating Our Species, and Making Us Smarter” by Joseph Henrich

“Why did European explorers starve to death when marooned in unfamiliar areas, even where local hunter-gatherers ate well? The locals had extensive technological skills and other knowledge that had taken millennia to discover,” said Bohn. “The first portion of the book shows that technology is cumulative and very deep. He calls this ‘culture’ and includes human interactions like marriage customs. Later sections discuss coevolution of tech and genes.”

Taxing the Rich | Manhattan Beach

Professor Maria Carreri

Recommendation: “Taxing the Rich: A History of Fiscal Fairness in the United States and Europe” by Kenneth Scheve and “Manhattan Beach: A Novel” by Jennifer Egan

“The first book is a history of why governments do – and don’t – tax the rich. Interesting, fun to read and very relevant to the current political debate,” said Carrreri. “The second is a great novel. A tribute to New York City and its history as a seaport – one aspect of its identity that New York shares with many great cities.”

Lost Children

Professor Richard Feinberg

Recommendation: “Lost Children Archive: A novel” by Valeria Luiselli

“The novel’s ‘lost children’ include the last Apaches as well as today’s desperate young migrants from Central America,” said Feinberg. “Luiselli envisions the Southwest as desolate and haunted by genocide, a xenophobic wasteland occupied by a brutal border patrol. In Luiselli’s deft hands, children are our shame and our redemption.”

Policing the Open Road

Professor Teevrat Garg

Recommendation: “Policing the Open Road: How Cars Transformed American Freedom” by Sarah Seo

“I have been fascinated by America’s obsession with cars and driving on freeways,” said Garg. “As someone who doesn’t drive, and can’t wait for self-driving cars or a major overhaul of public transportation, this book provides a fascinating legal and historical perspective on how driving on open roads has become synonymous with personal freedom and how law enforcement on roads shapes so many aspects of American life.”

Just Mercy

Professor Emeritus Peter Gourevitch

Recommendation: “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” by Bryan Stevenson

“A deeply moving book, mostly about getting people released who were unjustly on Death Row, by the man who created the amazing museums on lynching and slavery in Montgomery, Alabama,” said Gourevitch. “Stevenson spoke at UC San Diego last January in the Edison Lecture series, one of the two most affecting speeches I have ever heard in person, the other being Martin Luther King in 1963 in front of the Lincoln Memorial.”

Toms River | 4 3 2 1

Professor Joshua Graff Zivin

Recommendation: “Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation” by Dan Fagin and “4 3 2 1: A Novel” by Paul Auster

“Toms River is a fascinating history of the chemical industry, the birth of epidemiology and environmental regulation,” said Graff Zivin. “4321 is a Dickens-like novel about a cast of characters coming of age in NYC, with an intriguing narrative twist.”

Born a Crime

Professor Emilie M. Hafner-Burton

Recommendation: “Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood” by Trevor Noah

“You MUST listen to Noah read it on audible. He weaves a very complex picture of a boy growing up in South Africa during and after apartheid,” said Hafner-Burton. “The politics inform the background to this at times heart wrenching and at times hilarious depiction of one of South Africa’s most famous comedians and political commentators today.”

African Samurai | Special Duty

Professor Emeritus Ellis Krauss

Recommendation: “African Samurai: The True Story of Yasuke, a Legendary Black Warrior in Feudal Japan” by Thomas Lockley and Geoffrey Girard and “Special Duty: A History of the Japanese Intelligence Community” by Richard Samuels

“The first novel is a true story of an African who came to Japan in late 16th century and rose to become a favorite bodyguard of Oda Nobunaga, the most powerful feudal lord,” said Krauss. “The second novel traces the checkered history of Japan’s intelligence services both before and after WW II. Samuels is perhaps the top and most interesting writer of Japanese politics.”

Rule Makers, Rule Breakers

Professor Ulrike Schaede

Recommendation: “Rule Makers, Rule Breakers: How Tight and Loose Cultures Wire Our World” by Michele Gelfand

“This book offers a new framework for doing international business research, and a new way of thinking about managing organizational change across countries, companies, and communities,” said Schaede.

China's New Red Guards

Professor Victor Shih

Recommendation: “China’s New Red Guards Radicalism and the Rebirth of Mao Zedong” by Jude Blanchette

“Beneath the booming market economy in China is a deep strain of Maoism, that is the worship of the life and ideas of Chairman Mao, the leader of China from 1949 to 1976,” said Shih. “Blanchette, the former assistant director of our 21st Century China Center, talked with scores of neo-Maoist and gleaned fascinating insights on their ideals and their complex relationship with the Chinese government.”

Stronghold | Working

Professor David Victor

Recommendation: “Stronghold: One Man’s Quest to Save the World’s Salmon” and “Working” by Robert Caro

“The first recommendation is a wonderful biography about Guido Rahr—a misfit who loved geology and ecology and fish more than school. And struggled to fit in, until he figured out that his mission was to protect the world’s last wild ecosystems,” said Victor. “‘Working’ is a think book of reflections on how Caro does his craft—on how he ‘turns every page’ to immerse himself in the material. And, most importantly, why he writes biography—not for understanding the men of his stories (they are men, mostly) but for understanding how power is mobilized and applied.”

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Summer reading for the bookworm